The Making of a Liberal: Chu Anping and the 'third way' intelligentsia in 1940s' China

PhD Thesis Proposal review


William Sima


Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU


Monday, 2 May, 2016 - 10:30 to 12:00

Chu Anping 儲安平 (1909–1966?)

Chu Anping 儲安平 (1909–1966?) was a prominent journalist during the late Republican era and early years of the People's Republic of China. He is remembered for his refusal to become affiliated with any political party, both as editor of The Observer 觀察, the leading 'third way' liberal journal of the civil war period (1946–1949), and in his public censure of what he dubbed the Communist 'Party Empire' 黨天下 during the Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956). Denounced as a 'Rightist' after this personal assault on Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, Chu lived in obscurity until his death, probably by suicide, at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Interest in Chu has increased steadily since the late 1980s. Several collections of his previously unpublished writing have appeared in recent years, and in 2015 the first biography of him was published in Hong Kong. Chu's bravery in 'speaking truth to power', the intrigue surrounding his death, and the fact that he remains one of a small number of 'Rightists' to have never been rehabilitated after Mao's death, has meant that many studies about him have been unduly hagiographic — or in the case of the recent biography, revisionist to the point of denying Chu's sincerity as a liberal critic.

By contrast, Chu has been given only passing attention in Anglophone histories. Late Qing and May Fourth liberals like Liang Qichao 梁啟超 and Hu Shih 胡適 are well known, while those who some have dubbed China's 'third generation' of liberals — including Chu, Luo Longji 羅隆基, and Quentin Pan 潘光旦 — continue to be misunderstood. Sandwiched between the warring KMT and Communists, 'third way' liberals are seen to have 'failed' in their goal of creating an open, critical forum for advising the government and addressing the public. The ensuing Cold War ensured that their efforts, along with many nuances of 1940s Chinese history, slid into obscurity.

This thesis aims to provide a clearer understanding of liberal discourse in 1940s China, as propounded by Chu and his colleagues at The Observer, but also in the writing of other self-described 'liberal intellectuals' 自由主義知識分子 of the time. William Sima’s contention is that while Chu is remembered as an editor of China's leading liberal journal of the civil war, other writers too deserve attention — many in The Observer group 觀察社, for instance, had been professors at the Southwest Associated University 西南聯合大學 in Kuming, during the war with Japan. His work will engage widely with the liberal impulse in modern Chinese intellectual history, the role of the intellectual in Chinese society, and show why such aspects of 'China's unfinished twentieth century' are still important today.

About the Speaker

William Sima is a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World. Following his honours thesis on Lin Yutang he co-edited the June/September 2012 edition of China Heritage Quarterly, focusing on the 1930s liberal journal The China Critic 中國評論週報. He recently published China & ANU: Diplomats, Adventures, Scholars (ANU Press: 2015), a study of Australian diplomats in China and the founding of ANU Asian Studies in the 1940s.



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